Straight from the dark heart of Italy
In the summer of 1987, Ian Rush left Liverpool for Juventus after a seven year spell on Merseyside littered with trophies, accolades and, most importantly, goals.
With an astonishing 207 in 331 games, he arrived in Turin with not only a brilliant strike rate, but also a ringing endorsement from Juve legend and fellow Welshman John Charles, who said of his compatriot; "Ian is better than me and will score more goals. There is not a striker in the world who knows the art of scoring as he does."
Yet despite Juve being so confident Rush could replace for the recently retired Michel Platini they were willing to cough up £3.2 million for his services, the striker struggled to fit into a team desperately in need of a huge overhaul.
Unlike Charles, who's move was an unmitigated success, the timing was completely wrong for Rush, who suffered thanks to injury, poor form and a complete lack of effort to embrace the culture of Italy and Juventus. While the oft-quoted 'It's like living in a foreign country' was nothing more than a sly joke from Kenny Dalglish, Rush returned to Liverpool just over a year after departing, with the Bianconeri recouping £2.8 million.
Sadly for Juventus this quick resale is a far from isolated case. Earlier this summer they shipped out Argentinian midfielder Sergio Almirón to Catania for €400,000, just four years after splashing out a staggering €9 million in taking him to Turin from Empoli. While it's hardly uncommon for big money signings to fail, few turn out for their new club as rarely as Almirón did in the famous black and white stripes. He played just nine times before being packed off on loan less than four months after arriving, never to play for the club again, loaned to a seemingly endless string of clubs until this final resolution was found.
Thierry Henry's time with Juve was a similar tale, arriving amid much fanfare in January 1999 but leaving that same summer after just sixteen appearances and three goals. While there are mitigating circumstances for his perceived failure and subsequent success at Arsenal - not to mention the fact Juventus made a profit on his sale - it is one more example of a strange quirk of the transfer policy at one of European football's biggest clubs.
Yet this past week Juve may have outdone themselves in loaning defender Reto Ziegler to Turkish Super Lig side Fenerbahçe. A host factors make the deal quite possibly the oddest in the club's history, foremost among them the fact the Swiss International never featured for Juventus in an official game.
Having only joined the club on July 1 following the expiration of his contract with Sampdoria, Ziegler played very little of Juve's pre-season. New coach Antonio Conte preferred instead to focus on Italian fullback Paolo De Ceglie, who missed much of last term through injury and used a number of other players instead of the former Tottenham man.
However, as much as the speed with which Director General Beppe Marotta has moved the player on is odd, it is the hole he leaves at the club which causes most concern. With Armand Traoré returning to Arsenal following the expirary of his loan deal, and Fabio Grosso completely frozen out all summer, there is no other specialist left-back in the Bianconeri squad.
As Argentina's lacklustre performances at the Copa America proved, never before have full-backs been so vital to a team's play - and this summer Marotta seemed to have clearly learnt from his previous mistakes with these positions.
Last year saw him gamble on Marco Motta but, in addition to Ziegler's free transfer, he spent €10 million to bring fellow Swiss international Stephan Lichtsteiner from Lazio. This appeared to give the club a competent duo that would stand up against any in Serie A and with De Ceglie fit again Conte had cover should injuries or suspension affect the side.
The most likely explanation for the rather baffling affair lies with the fullback's former club. Ziegler reinvented himself with 'Doria, slotting perfectly into Gigi Delneri's counter-attacking side having largely been used in midfield before arriving in Genoa. With Marotta having also left Sampdoria for Turin last year it is no real leap of faith to suggest this move to reunite Ziegler with his former coach was a long-standing arrangement, as the player himself confirmed when speaking to RSI;
“Gigi Delneri was still the coach when I signed for Juventus," Ziegler explained. "He and Director [Giuseppe] Marotta knew me from their time at Samp and they wanted me at Juve, I went there for them. I spoke to Conte when I first arrived and he told me that he wouldn’t be counting on me at all as he had other ideas.”
Free agents are allowed to discuss moves and sign agreements with other clubs in the last six months of their contract, so it is not unreasonale to assume a deal was struck as far back as early January, when Delneri was in a very strong position at Juventus who then looked like title contenders.
If Conte is unconvinced by Ziegler - as the player's lack of playing time this summer suggests - then quickly putting an unwanted signing back in the shop window is a smart, if somewhat strange way to do business.
While there is still some lingering hope he may actually play for the club, Reto Ziegler is certainly in good company in passing through Turin's express departure lounge.
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